HEALTHY EATING: Sneak peek at nutrition trends

BY CAROLYN O’NEIL

eatingoutHungry appetites looking for more gluten-free food products, wondering about the next wave in antioxidant super fruit or craving tasty snacks that just happen to be healthy are in for a bumper crop of satisfying solutions.

Scoping out what’s new at an annual confab some call “Fashion Week for Food and Nutrition” (The American Dietetic Association’s 2009 Food and Nutrition Conference held in Denver recently) I observed companies out in force to convince registered dietitians that their foods and beverages fit in with fitness.

The good news for foodies is that as competition heats up in the diet and wellness category, so do efforts to create better tasting options. Good health is appealing, but great taste seals the deal.

Taste Satisfaction: Greek-style yogurts made a bigger presence this year. Dietitians like them because they are higher in protein than other yogurts and tend to be thicker and richer tasting, adding staying power and satisfaction to weight control diets.

Healthy Snack Attacks: Frito-Lay is courting women who snack with a new “Only in a Woman’s World” snack campaign, which draws attention to the calcium and fiber in Smart Food popcorn snacks and the half serving per ounce of vegetables in Flat Earth baked veggie chips. Individually packaged prunes, Sunsweet Ones, caught dietitians’ eyes as a great way to hand out a naturally sweet treat that’s a good source of fiber and antioxidants to candy crazy kids on Halloween.

Eat the Whole Thing: Whole grain products were out in force. Kashi, which boasts seven whole grains in all of their products, previewed Toasted Berry Crumble GOLEAN Crisp cereal, a new flavor to be released in early 2010.  Buitoni’s line of refrigerated pastas now includes four 100 percent whole wheat varieties.

“The whole grain thing is a confusing story for consumers with all of the competing claims and information,” Dietitian Theresa Stahl of West Virginia University said. “One thing for sure, Americans are not suffering from ‘bran damage’! They need more fiber.”

Gluten Free Free-For-All: An entire section of the exhibit hall was dedicated to gluten-free products.  Amy’s Kitchen, a line of organic frozen entrees, soups and desserts offers more than 50 options for consumers avoiding gluten. Even hard to navigate categories such as crackers include better tasting brands such as Mary’s Gone Crackers gluten-free snacks.

Going Green and Clean: Author of “Go Green, Get Lean,” registered dietitian Kate Geagan observed a big emphasis on the number of ingredients in foods. “Consumers want food that looks and sounds clean; like they made it themselves or could at least. So lots of new products are showing simple ingredients lists with five ingredients or less. They read like something from your kitchen not a high school chemistry exam.”

Read the label, set a better table

I always liked that phrase coined years ago by nutrition educators. It holds true today as we evaluate new food products for what we want more of or less of in our diets.

  1. Find out how many calories per serving and look at serving size. Does that 100 calorie serving mean two cookies or just one?  The whole bottle of juice or just half?
  2. Look to see what kind of fat the product contains. Limit saturated fat and seek out monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. Avoid trans fats.
  3. Check the sodium content. Dietary guidelines suggest we limit sodium intake to less than 2500 milligrams per day. Look for potassium levels, too. Potassium is the ‘good guy’ helping to regulate blood pressure.
  4. Check to see how many grams of fiber are in each serving. Bread, for instance, should have at least 2 grams per serving. You need between 25 and 30 grams a day, and most Americans consume only about 15 grams. Read the ingredients panel to find “whole grain” clues. It could say whole wheat, whole oats, brown rice or list any number of seeds such as flax seed.
  5. What’s in it for me? Look for nutrient content you should be adding to your diet such as vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium and iron.

Carolyn O’Neil is a registered dietitian and co-author of “The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!” E-mail her at carolyn@
carolynoneil.com

5 comments Add your comment

Leah McGrath, RD, LDN

October 28th, 2009
9:56 am

great stuff! I’d add: lower sodium products, tropical fruit juices like mangosteen and others that aren’t familiar to most of us.

She standing in that doorway like a dream , cause she knows that it kills me

October 28th, 2009
4:22 pm

Flat Earth Rocks!

JR

October 29th, 2009
8:31 am

I highly recommend sampling the Amy’s Kitchen products. The frozen meals in particular taste fantastic, my 6 year old LOVES the gluten free mac and cheese and pesto tortellini!

Barb Ruhs

October 29th, 2009
5:28 pm

trends nutrition -

John Lennon ate my dog and cat. Imagine that.

November 11th, 2009
8:56 am

Amy’s Kitchen stuff is too expensive. Buy ingredients and make the stuff yourself. You can make a crock pot full of chili that will last a week for less than $6.